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This classic vegan bean salad recipe has a few tasty twists with lime juice, cilantro, and cumin. Serve as a side dish at your next picnic or bbq or as a whole bean dip with pita bread or tortilla chips.
Growing up, I always loved variations of the classic three-bean salad – but the bean salad I bought at the grocery store didn’t always love me with the high syrupy sugar content. Did anyone else have gastric issues when eating a store-bought three-bean salad? No? Just me? TMI? Moving on…
This great-tasting recipe for vegan bean salad is made from scratch, and is inspired by Mexican three-bean salad. It’s lower in sugar, a great source of plant-based protein, made easy using canned beans, and can be served as a side dish, vegan main course, or as a dip with pita bread or tortilla chips.
This vegan three bean salad is:
- super easy to prepare
- keeps well in the fridge for about five days
- is best served cold
- inspired by Mexican flavors and seasoning such as cilantro, lime juice, and cumin
- high in protein
- adaptable for using your favorite beans (see below)
- can be made whole food plant-based (see below)
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The humble (yet amazing) canned bean
You might have noticed that this recipe is mostly beans with a few extras thrown in to give the beans flavor and pizzaz!
Beans, or legumes, are power foods for plant-based eaters. They are a rich source of protein, fiber, b vitamins, along with other nutrients. Read more about the benefits of beans in this article by Medline Plus.
Since beans are high in fiber, they may help you to feel full longer. If your body isn’t used to that amount of fiber, then ease into it by using this three bean salad as part of a healthy Buddah bowl.
Most beans are pretty low in fat (with no saturated fat) and so provide an excellent subsitute for those who are wanting to add protein but who don’t want to eat meat (me raising my hand).
We use canned beans in this bean salad for a quick and easy recipe. Can you cook your own beans from dried? Sure! But honestly, that just sounds like way more work than I’m willing to put in. If you want to cook your own beans from dried, keep in mind that a can of beans contains about 1 3/4 cups of beans. Plan accordingly.
A special note about the bean cans and ounces
Depending on the brand and types of beans you use, you are looking at anywhere from 14.5 – 16 ounces per can. I used 15 ounces as the measurement in the recipe below. Don’t get hung up on that number – just use three standard-size cans of beans.
Ingredients needed to make Mexican-inspired vegan three bean salad
- dark red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
- white beans drained and rinsed
- juice from a couple of limes – or use bottled
- fresh cilantro chopped
- red onion diced very small
- olive oil
- ground cumin
- teaspoon salt
Some common substitutions for this easy vegan bean salad recipe
Don’t like a particular type of bean? You can substitute in any type of canned beans you’d like. I’ve used black beans, cannellini beans, and pinto beans. I’ve even subbed in canned corn and green beans – really it’s about using what you’d like and what you have on hand.
Want to health it up? Substitute maple syrup or date paste for the agave, and aquafaba (bean juice) for the oil. The flavor and texture will not be quite the same but it will still be a delicious whole bean dip or side!
How to make three bean salad
Bean salads are easy and fun to make. Just follow these simple instructions and you’ll have your own three bean salad on the table in no time at all!
Step one: prepare the ingredients
- chop the onion and cilantro
- juice the limes
- drain and rinse the canned beans
Chop the fresh cilantro into small pieces and chop the onion. I personally prefer very small diced pieces of red onion. I also love using shallots in this recipe, but they can be a little more labor-intense because they are harder to removed the paper/peal and you will need a couple of them.
Squeeze the limes if you are using fresh lime. You will need two to three nice plump limes to get one-quarter cup lime juice. I have no problem using bottled pure lime juice for this recipe rather than freshly squeezed limes. To get the most juice out of my fresh limes, I use this handy citrus juicer.
I like this one because it has a juicing head for small citrus fruits such as limes and lemons and a larger head for oranges and grapefruits. You can also adjust how much pulp gets into your juice.
Drain and rinse the canned beans you are using. Today I used dark red kidney beans, white beans, and garbanzo. I prefer the texture of cannellini beans but had Great Northern White Beans on hand today.
Step 2: Mix the ingredients
Add the drained and rinsed canned beans to a med/large bowl along with the chopped onion and cilantro. Add in the cumin, lime juice, olive oil, agave, and salt. Give it a good toss.
Step 3: Chill and serve
Cover tightly and set the prepared three-bean mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The ingredients will chill, but more importantly, the flavors will have a chance to meld and develop.
Serve as a side dish, a main course, or as part of a plant-based bowl. This also makes an excellent whole bean dip and is perfectly served with pita bread or tortilla chips.
This three bean salad dip should keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to five days. Beans have a way of going bad fast and so I would not keep it any longer than that.
For some other tasty vegan dishes made with canned beans, try
- Easy Stovetop Burbon Baked Beans
- The Easiest Creamy Vegan Italian Soup
- Easy Texas Caviar
- The Best Vegan Egg Salad Sandwhich with Chickpeas
- Minestrone Soup
The recipe for vegan three bean salad with a Mexican Inspired twist
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Vegan Bean Salad Recipe with Cilantro and Lime
- 15 ounces canned dark red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces canned garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces canned white beans drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¾ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 cup red onion diced
- 2 Tablespoons agave
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Chop the red onion and cilantro. Set aside
- Drain and rinse the three cans of beans.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a medium/large bowl and mix well.
- Serve as a side salad or as a whole bean dip with pita or chips.